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The primary goal of the MERIT program is to break the substance abuse-crime cycle by involving defendants in treatment and rehabilitation.
MERIT is available to eligible defendants who appear at participating Local Courts. The program targets defendants with a demonstrable drug or alcohol problem who are eligible and suitable for release on bail and who are motivated to engage in treatment and rehabilitation.
To be considered eligible for MERIT and/or Alcohol MERIT, where available, a defendant must:
The defendant must not:
To be suitable for MERIT a defendant must:
The MERIT program allows defendants to focus on treating their drug or alcohol problem in isolation from legal matters. Therefore, the program is designed so that agreement to become involved is not an admission of guilt for the offence(s) charged. Treatment is generally prior to any pleas being made with the adjournment of court matters until the completion of the program.
Treatments offered will vary according to what is appropriate for the particular participant, and may include:
In instances of non-compliance, MERIT caseworkers will report this to the Magistrate. The consequences are that the Magistrate may remove the defendant from the program. If removed from MERIT, the defendant's matters proceed to plea or hearing.
It should be noted that failure to respond to a drug treatment program will not be dealt with by punitive measures. If convicted of the offence(s) as charged, any penalty will relate to that offence only, and not to any failure to respond to treatment.
The completion of the treatment program is likely to coincide with the hearing or sentencing of the outstanding court matter(s).
Types of sentences used after successful completion of MERIT vary but should reflect successful completion of MERIT and also take into account any recommendations for further treatment.